Resistance to legal tech innovations in Malaysia — a threat to the rule of law?

 

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Guest writer Pang Jo Fan—Head of Marketing & Communications at legaltech lawyer-discovery service CanLaw—presents his views on why Malaysia’s Bar Council should be encouraging the development and introduction of legaltech to ensure access to justice.

Of late, there has been a spike in legal technology startups in the Malaysian market providing innovative tech solutions to assist both the public and lawyers in their day-to-day legal needs. Other than the more veteran players such as eLawyer and OfficeParrots who have been tirelessly serving Malaysian law firms with their human resource needs, there are also recent players such as Lesys Tenancy (tenancy agreements), BurgieLaw (legal directory), Dragon Law (document drafting), EasyLaw (calculators for lawyers), Locum Legalis (MOB app) and, of course, CanLaw (lawyer-discovery).

Much has been said about the Bar Council’s denial of Dragon Law’s entry to the Malaysian market and the infamous lawsuit against Answers-In-Law. The Malaysian Lawyer also provided an insightful update on the said matters based on the report by the Legal Profession Committee dated 1 December 2016 contained in the 2016/17 Annual Report of the Malaysian Bar. As it stands, it appears that the legal industry remains rather cautious of any form of tech innovations that are being introduced into the profession, mostly due to the general misconception that technological innovations pose a threat to the livelihoods of law practitioners in the country.

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Bar Council finds BurgieLaw and Dragon Law in breach of Legal Profession Act; yet to decide on CanLaw

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[edit: Burgielaw has responded to this article to clarify matters: “Burgielaw.com wishes to clarify that, as of today, Bar Council has neither disapproved nor disallowed the application of Burgielaw.com.”]

In June 2016, TheMalaysianLawyer.com published an article titled “Malaysian Bar Council’s scrutiny of Dragon Law continues legal innovation debate”, written by Marcus van Geyzel.

The article was prompted by a report that the then Malaysian Bar President, Steven Thiru, had confirmed that Dragon Law‘s entry into the Malaysian market was being scrutinised. Do re-read that article for an analysis of the state of legal innovation in Malaysia at the time.

This article seeks to provide an update on the Bar Council’s stance on services in the innovative legaltech sphere—BurgieLaw, CanLaw (which was launched after the earlier article), and Dragon Law—based on the report by the Legal Profession Committee (“LPC”) dated 1 December 2016 contained in the 2016/17 Annual Report of the Malaysian Bar.

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Malaysian Bar Council’s scrutiny of Dragon Law continues legal innovation debate

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On 1 June 2016, legal startup Dragon Law announced its entry into the Malaysian market, with a promotional launch offer of free access to their suite of legal documents for a limited time. Dragon Law first launched in Hong Kong in January 2015, and in Singapore in the second half of 2015.

For now, users in Malaysia will be able to find and customise legal documents, sign and share the documents electronically, and organise and store these documents in the cloud. Users in Hong Kong and Singapore have access to various other services, including personalised training, access to a legal drafting help desk and legal clinics, invitations to seminars and events, and legal support from the Dragon Law team and their network of lawyers. The subscription packages for Malaysia have not been announced, but the pricing in Singapore starts at SGD175 per month.

On 12 June 2016, a story in The Star (Legal start-up’s services scrutinised by Malaysian Bar) reported that Dragon Law‘s entry into Malaysia has come under the scrutiny of the Malaysian Bar. It was reported that Malaysian Bar President Steven Thiru has confirmed that Dragon Law‘s services were being studied.

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